A Prisoner in Afghanistan | Harper's Magazine

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A Prisoner in Afghanistan


The Pentagon has identified the U.S. soldier recently seized by the Taliban and presented in a video as Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl, 23, from Ketchum, Idaho. In the video, Bergdahl says he was captured by the Taliban when he straggled behind his Alaska-based unit. A U.S. military spokesman, Colonel Greg Julian, responds: “We condemn the use of this video and the public humiliation of prisoners. It is against international law. We are doing everything we can to return this soldier to safety.” That’s absolutely correct. Article 13 of the Third Geneva Convention protects prisoners against “violence and intimidation” as well as “insults” and exposure to “public curiosity.” Taking a prisoner and then taking photographs or film footage of the prisoner for purposes of harassing or demoralizing him or his fellow soldiers is a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions. This tape appears clearly contrived for just that purpose. It should therefore be viewed as documenting the criminal misconduct of Bergdahl’s captors, and little else.

It was likewise a violation of the Geneva Conventions when, in May 2005, photographs circulated in U.S. and British papers of an underwear-clad Saddam Hussein washing his laundry. The Rumsfeld Pentagon feigned anger over their release and claimed to have undertaken an investigation. However, the move matched perfectly psy-ops plans to use Saddam’s image as well as that of his two deceased children to damage the morale of Baathist “dead-enders.” Moreover, the photographs appeared in Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers, renowned for their “special access” to the Rumsfeld Pentagon. The Murdoch papers claimed to have gotten them from a “Pentagon official.” Such episodes pull the carpet out from under the United States when it tries to press the rights of captured soldiers like Pvt. Bergdahl.

Hopefully Bergdahl will soon be released and find his way back to his unit. But over at the “fair and balanced” channel we hear a voice that wishes this young soldier ill. On Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News, “strategic analyst” Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, while cautioning that he doesn’t know all the facts, goes on nonetheless to accuse Bergdahl of being a deserter and of cooperating with the enemy by making the video. “If he walked away… the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills,” Peters says, appearing to suggest that they should execute him. This is the “support our troops” channel? Watch the entire clip here.

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